On our (in)humanity

Two recent stories in the news caught my eye on the two sides of human beings. The first is a shocking episode of two young boys in England, brothers aged 10 and 11, who brutally beat two other boys of roughly the same age. The details of the case are horrific, as the brothers robbed the boys, threatened to kill them, forced one of them to engage in a sex act, and then for over an hour stomped and beat them with broken glass, bricks, sticks, and pieces of a ceramic sink. Both victims survived, but barely.

Contrast that story with the outpouring of support for Haitians suffering from the recent earthquake. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, as of January 20 private citizens and companies had donated $305 million to support relief efforts there. The wide chasm between these two stories encapsulates the tremendous pliability of human behavior. On the one hand, we have an enormous capacity for brutality toward each other, as seen in the many examples of interpersonal violence, the number of wars on the planet, or even through the more subtle, systematic violence of extreme poverty and exploitation.

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